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Tips for connecting with your first born after a new sibling is born

“I am in need of some advice.  My oldest, 8, has been having extremely explosive tantrums over every single little thing.  I’m already at my limit and so I have a hard time not losing it. I try to remain calm for the most part but the screeching crying drives me insane.  I don’t know how to help her. I try to comfort her, she pushes me away. If I try to talk with her, she just cries. I had another baby 18 months ago and I know it has been hard for her (my oldest).  She feels as though I like the baby more. I constantly tell her how awesome she is and how proud I am of her but it doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s just a hard time right now and we are so out of sync.  Do you have any quick suggestions on how I can connect with her? It was so much easier when she was younger but I feel like I’ve lost my way.”

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Adjusting to a new sibling:

Adjusting to a new sibling + sharing mom can be one of the hardest transitions for kids and families.  Kids are used to having you to themselves. To play with, talk with, snuggle with, when they need help, the majority of the time.  We all know that new babies literally need us for almost everything under the sun, which requires our time and energy and the first born can be feeling so left out and like they’ve been replaced.  While they’re feeling hurt, they might not know how to process these emotions and cope with it or express it. I can remember my daughter lying on the floor in the middle of the hallway hysterically crying because I had to stop playing with her to feed my newborn son.  She was screaming “my mommy never plays with me anymore!” over and over. It was frustrating for both of us, and also heartbreaking. How must it feel to be a child and feel like you’ve been replaced?

The power of connecting with your kids:

Ask yourself:

  1. What do your mornings look like?

  2. After school?

  3. Before bed?

  4. How often are you able to give 1-1 undivided attention.

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Usually the times kids need the most attention/connection are the times above (first thing in the morning, after school, before bed).  Anytime right before or after a separation from you.  I encourage you to set aside a few minutes during these transitions to connect with her.  It can be as simple as waking up 5-10 minutes earlier to spend time together before she starts getting ready for school.  Snuggling in bed, reading a book, talking about her dream or the day ahead. Reading or playing a game or talking about whatever SHE wants before bed.  And once in a while, go on date with just you and her. Let her know that you are setting aside special time for her just for the two of you so she will recognize how meaningful it is.  When kids feel connected to us, they are more likely to feel secure and less likely to seek undue attention through behavior.

Handling tantrums

When they’re in the middle of a tantrum and you feel like they’re losing it, I’ve found it helpful to simply acknowledge that you see how mad/sad/frustrated/whatever they are feeling, and let them know you’re feeling frustrated too.  Tell them you’re going to walk away because you don’t think well when you’re mad, and you don’t want to yell, so you’ll come back and check on them when you’re both calm.

See my post on navigating tantrums for more tips for staying calm during meltdowns.